To Buy a Jersey, To Not Buy a Jersey

Brief note before I begin – I may be the only person on WordPress not writing a blog post on Sarah Palin today.  Logging in just now, every single post on the WordPress front page was about her Saturday Night Live appearance last night.  Come on, Bloggers of the World, stop copying one another.

(And yes, I’m hoping just by slipping her name in there, I get 6-10 extra hits on my blog today.)

On to our regularly scheduled sports related blog, because while I may have been named Most Political in high school, it was because there was no “Overly Involved Wanna-Be Sportswriter” superlative, not because I actually like politics.  (American politics is faker than the WWE, as far as I’m concerned.)

Two and a half weeks ago, I found myself on pricing a Trent Edwards jersey or t-shirt (call me cheap, but I prefer the t-shirt fake jersey because of price and because I can wear it more places.) I believed Edwards had shown enough over the previous four weeks for any serious Bills fan to consider buying his jersey.  It would be the first time since the Drew Bledsoe era that a Bills fan could consider buying a starting quarterback’s jersey.  Sure, the cheapest option would set me back at least $29.00, but one’s weekend wardrobe can’t consist of her three Gabe Kapler and one Jason Bay shirts through the entire baseball off-season.  (And that’s not a new thing for me – I wore my 49ers, Bills, Amerks, and Steve Young shirts all through high school.  That was before this whole women’s sports paraphernalia thing was accepted.  No wonder I didn’t have a date until college.)

One of the Edwards jerseys I considered

One of the Edwards jerseys I considered

I priced out the jersey option and the t-shirt option, and said to myself, “Okay, if the Bills beat Arizona, I’ll suck it up, cut out my daily coffee run for three weeks, and buy the Edwards shirt.”

That Sunday, Edwards was befallen by a late hit by Adrian Wilson (because the Cardinals hate any quarterback I remotely like), was concussed, and my plan to buy the Edwards shirt went out my apartment window.

Why?  The whole purchase of a player jersey is such an iffy investment.  They might suffer a nasty concussion or ACL tear that knocks them out for the rest of the season.  In some instances, that player may never be the same after that injury.  What if they just play poorly, continue on a downward spiral, and end up being replaced?  Unless they have two or three solid seasons to their credit before that happens, if you buy their jersey, it looks like you make rash judgments and spend frivolously.

For example, all my fellow Bills fans that purchased JP Losman jerseys a few years back – now they look a little silly.  Losman didn’t develop into much of a quarterback, befallen by a bad attitude.  He had few excellent performances when he did start, but not enough that you can say to a Losman jersey owner, “Oh, well, he was good for a few seasons, and that jersey could be worn with a heck of a lot of pride when he was.”  No, Losman never played well enough to justify the jersey purchase, the outlay of eighty some-odd dollars.  By wearing a Losman #7, you aren’t paying homage to a former clutch player for your franchise – you’re saying, “I jumped on the Losman bandwagon two years ago, and now the man owes me $89.99 for buying into his hype.”

With Edwards concussion, I was jolted back to reality.  This kid hasn’t played an entire 16 game NFL regular season yet in his career.  He’s only in his second year in the NFL.  He’s been befallen by knee injuries in both college and pro ball, he’s now had a concussion…there is just too much at risk.  Even after today’s win against the Chargers, I’ll reevaluate where Edwards is at Week 10 and see if he’s still the quarterback of the Bills future he looks like he is.  If he is, maybe I’ll purchase the Edwards t-shirt.  Or maybe I’ll wait.  Buying a jersey is a serious commitment, and a serious outlay of cash – you really have to be committed to the athlete to take that step.


Can't put the FWSNBN's name on my jersey - but that's okay

Can't put the FWSNBN's name on my jersey, but I'll live

The other jersey question that has been brought up in the past few weeks is the question of jerseys of college athletes. My beloved NCAA regulations specify that the selling of jerseys or t-shirts with student-athlete’s names on them for profit is prohibited.  For example, when Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan was in contention for the Heisman Trophy last year, you would find t-shirts for sale that read, “Heisman Trophy Candidate, #11” with the Eagles logo on it.  Ryan’s name did not appear anywhere on the shirt.

The production and sale of student-athlete jerseys is regulated by Article 12.5 “Promotional Activities” in the NCAA Division I Handbook.  Specifically, (h) reads:

Items that include an individual student-athlete’s name, picture
or likeness (e.g., name on jersey, name or likeness on a bobble-head doll), other than informational items
(e.g., media guide, schedule cards, institutional publications), may not be sold [by the member institution or athletic conference.]

However, some jersey customizations fall through the cracks.  Despite the “forbidden customizations” list many licensed retailers have, at Boston University hockey games, you will see a smattering of customized jerseys.  Someone two rows back from me sports a Gilroy #97 jersey, a pre-teen girl the section over sports a jersey of the Forward Who Shall Not Be Named (FWSNBN), and a colleague of mine owns a MacArthur #16 jersey.  There’s more than just those three, but those are the three that are always there. The University can’t mass produce these jerseys and sell them, but these fans somehow custom ordered these jerseys to reflect their favorite players.

I own a Boston University hockey jersey, wear it religiously on game nights, and trust you me, I would love to break the rules, copy the pre-teen girl in section 115 and get it customized to reflect the FWSNBN.  But for now, I’ll leave the customization of our BU jerseies to the more brave souls among our fanbase, and will wait until the FWSNBN plays professional hockey to buy his jersey, even if it is in Europe, Siberia or for the Iowa Chops.  (And trust me, I’ll grimace if it’s the Chops.  Seriously.  But I’ll suck it up and buy it.)


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Filed under Better Know a Compliance Rule, Boston University hockey, BU Terriers, Buffalo Bills, college hockey, fandom, hockey, Hockey East, NCAA Compliance, sports culture, Sports philosophy

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